Friday, December 22, 2006

Spanish Rice

This recipe is quick, easy, delicious, and a kid pleaser. I've adapted it from The Frugle Gourmet's - Emily's Spanish Rice.

Ingredients Serves 4 as a main dish
1 T olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 lb of extra lean hamburger
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 cup diced green, red, yellow ... whatever floats your boat ... pepper (I buy a frozen bag of mixed and have in the freezer.)
1/2 t. chili powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 T butter
1 cup converted rice*
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t. Tabasco
1/4 t. whole thyme leaves
1/2 t. salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)


Heat a large skillet (or Dutch oven) with a lid. Add the olive oil, hamburger and onions, sauteing until the meat is brown and onions are tender. Drain the meat of any fat if necessary. Add the green pepper and chili powder cooking an additional five minutes. All of the other ingredients get dumped in the pan and covered. Cook over low heat for about 25 minutes or until rice is tender.

*I use regular rice and add just a bit more water towards the end.
Tastes great topped with a little bit of grated cheddar cheese

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mrs. Mac's Holiday Cheese Ball

There are some things a mother must make for her soldier boy son when he's home on leave. The sticky chicken wings are one (previous recipe below) ... and this cheese ball is another. He's coming home next week for his sister's wedding ... better get to the store and stock up on the fixings for his comfort food :)

1 - 8 oz package Velveeta cheese
1 - 8 oz package cream cheese (cold)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring (optional)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/3-1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans

In a large mixing bowl, tear the Velveeta and cream cheese into chunks. Add the w-sauce, liquid smoke and garlic powder. Just barely mix the ingredients with clean hands and press together forming a ball (don't over mix ... you want the cheese ball to be marbled with chunks of cheese). Finely chop the parsley and nuts together on a cutting board and spread out. Roll the cheese ball in the nut/parsley mixture. You can sprinkle on a little bit of paprika for a festive look. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill. Serve with your favorite crackers (my son likes Triscuit and Wheat Thins).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sticky Chicken Wings

My family gets mad if I don't make enough of these wings.


One extra-large packaged tray of chicken wings (disjointed and wing tips removed)
1 Cup packed brown cane sugar
1 Cup organic soy sauce
2/3 Cup dry sherry (not "cooking" sherry)
2-3 large cloves garlic (pressed)
1/2 tsp. roasted sesame oil
1-2 Tablespoons fresh ginger juice (grate and squeeze out the juice), or a tsp of powdered ginger (fresh ginger is the best to use)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. I bake the wings on a jelly roll pan ... If you don't have a roll pan, use two(13x9) rectangular baking pans ... but increase the heat to 350. Put wings on pan in a single layer (all crammed together) and begin baking. In the meantime, mix other ingredients in a small sauce pan to melt the sugar. Very carefully pour the mixture over the wings and bake for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, turning often. The sherry bakes off and the wings get very sticky when done. Watch them carefully the last half hour to ensure the sauce doesn't burn. I find that using the rectangular pans may need even more time as it takes longer for the cooking sauce to cook down and get sticky. FYI ... best to make when your oven is in need of cleaning ;) (Quote from my daughter: "Mom, wouldn't it be great if you could buy room freshener that smelled like our sticky chicken wings baking?" lol)

Orange Spice Tea

This is a family favorite to mix up around Christmas. I purchased some cute glass Christmas jars from the $ Store and ta-da, a nice gift that's super easy to make.


2 Cups powered Tang
1 Cup instant unsweetened tea (powder)
1-1/2 Cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Place mixture in an airtight container to store.

Serve: Use about 1 and a half tablespoons for each mug of hot water (adjust to taste). May be served with a slice of fresh orange. Enjoy

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Slow-Cooked French Onion Beef Brisket

Yesterday I revamped a beef brisket recipe I made as a newlywed. You see, with all my cookbooks packed away, I'm having to stretch my memory back 25 years just to come up with new meals to serve my family.

1 beef brisket (enough to feed your family and have a little bit left over)
1 small can of Swanson's beef broth
1/2 sliced sweet variety onion
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large carrot peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1-2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet, browning and seasoning sauce

Rub brisket with Kitchen Bouquet on both sides and place inside crockpot. Add the broth, sliced onions, cut up carrot and salt around sides of beef in the liquid if possible. Cook on low if gone all day, or on high for at least 6-1/2 hours (at least until brisket is very tender).

Serving: Remove the brisket from crockpot, slice against the grain and place on a warmed platter. Strain as much of the onion/carrot mix from the broth with a slotted spoon and keep warm resting directly ontop of the meat (cover with foil). Gravy: Mix about 1/4 cup of all purpose flour with 1/2 cup cold water in a plastic container with a lid (shake well to get rid of lumps). Put the broth from crockpot in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly add about half of the flour/water mixture and whisk as it thinkens. Add more flour/water mixture if necessary until you like the consistency. Spoon a bit of the gravy over top the beef and veggies.

Serving suggestions: Serve with mashed potatoes and a veggie or salad of your choice. I happened to bake some autumn butternut squash to go with our dinner. If you decide not to make the gravy, leave the broth and serve the next day as a delicious French onion soup. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Slow-Cooked Crockpot Ribs

As a new bride ... many moons ago ... I needed to experiment with cooking meals that took little time to make ... but tasted like I knew what I was doing :). One little method I devised for cooking ribs in the slow cooker is as follows:


Large crockpot
beef or pork ribs (enough for your family and that can fit in the crockpot)
salt and pepper
garlic powder

Favorite BBQ sauce

Cut ribs in portions that can easily fit in the crockpot. Lay out on counter two pieces of foil (enough to wrap around ribs) and place ribs on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. Wrap tightly in the foil ... using more if necessary. Put "rib package" inside the crockpot making sure lid fits securely. I cook these all day on low, and when you're ready to eat at dinner time, just remove the foil ... place ribs on a baking sheet and brush on your favorite BBQ sauce. Stick under the broiler to carmalize the sauce just a bit ... or throw them on the BBQ just to give a smoky flavor. All of the fat just melts off from slow cooking all day long. No boiling necessary.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Easy Taco Casserole

It's been ages since I bought a cookbook. But today at the check-out-counter at Walmart, while I was waiting in line ... I picked up a cookbooklet put out by Taste Of Home called Ground Beef Classics. My large cookbook collection is in storage and we were in need for a few good easy meals for some variety.

Easy Taco Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar or colby cheese
1 cup shredded jack cheese
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cups shredded lettuce

(I only added one cup of cheddar cheese, and 1/3 cup of mayo, which seemed to be enough ... less calories too ... you don't taste mayo!)

Optional toppings:
sliced black olives
sour cream
additional salsa
fresh cilantro & a little squirt of lime

This meal takes about 35 minutes from start to finish.

In a saucepan, brown meat; drain. Add the salsa, mayo and chili powder; mix well. In an ungreased 2 quart baking dish, layer half of the meat mixture, chips and cheeses. Repeat layers.

Bake uncovered at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. We served all the toppings in small bowls to sprinkle on top of the casserole once served on a plate.

My picky eaters enjoyed this meal ... I will add this to my recipe box!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Whole Wheat Fruit Drops

(Kid pleaser cookies ... with whole wheat and oatmeal!)

1/4 C butter
1/4 C oil (cooking)
1 C sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 C oatmeal (dry)
1/2 C chopped nuts (walnut or pecan?)
1/2 C light raisins
1/2 C chopped dried apricots

First off, my kids don't like raisins, so I substituted them for another 1/2 C of dried apricots. You could use any type of dried fruit bits or dried cranberries or cherries. I prefer whole Mediteranean apricots and chopping them myself. I also chopped the nuts fine so they wouldn't notice them.

In large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and oil, then add the sugar, egg and vanilla; beat with mixer until fluffy. Stir in dry ingredients and oatmeal ... then fruit and nuts. Drop by teaspoon ful on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 8-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from pan at once. Makes 4 dozen.

(I'm not sure how one cup of flour and one cup of oatmeal equals 4 dozen cookies, but it really makes about that many.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bruschetta and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I like simple peasant type foods, rustic in character with under ten main ingredients (less is more) if possible. And, I have learned to adapt my cooking to include what is on hand in my pantry. I buy all our meat at Costco about every six weeks and divide it up to freeze. Once a month I restock the pantry with essentials, then once or twice a week I make a run to the market for those more fragile food items such as bananas, milk, etc.

My daughter, Elizabeth, found the following recipe for stuffed chicken in a food magazine a few months ago and tonight we made it for the second time ... the kids devoured it.

Prep time: 15 minutes --- Total: 1 hour

1 can (14-1/2 ox.) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained (plain diced is fine too)

1-1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I've used fresh rosemary in a pinch)

1 package (6 oz.) stuffing mix for chicken (such as Stovetop)

8 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (2 lbs)

1/3 cup Italian salad dressing (oil and vinegar based)

1 Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare stuffing by mixing in the whole can of diced tomatoes (including liquid), 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, basil along with the stuffing mix in a large mixing bowl just til moistened.

2 Pound out the chicken breasts two at a time in a gallon size plastic freezer bag to 1/4 inch in thickness.

3 Place pounded chicken breasts smooth side down on a cutting board and place a palm sized amount of stuffing in the middle ... and roll up tightly log style with stuffing in the middle and place seam side down in a 13"x9" pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat.

4. Pour the salad dressing evenly over the top and bake for 40 minutes.

5. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese and bake for five more minutes or until cheese is bubbly and chicken is done.

Makes 8 servings (approx 280 calories per serving)